Four Rules for Good Business Presentations

by Denny Strigl

Last week I presented some basic concepts to help managers conduct meetings.  As you know, meetings come in many varieties. For managers they are usually one-on-one meetings, group meetings, staff meetings and “town hall” meetings.  The “basics” discussed last week apply to all meetings, large and small.

It’s easy to know the good meetings from the bad when you are a participant, but not as easy when you are a presenter.  This week I’d like to discuss a few ideas to help managers deliver their presentations clearly, concisely and effectively.

What follows are my four rules for delivering good business presentations:

  1. Don’t spend any time talking about your own issues or problems or anything else about yourself. A couple of pleasantries are always appropriate to open a meeting, but quickly get right to the point. Too many managers start meetings talking about themselves.  The meeting is not about you. The audience members are seldom interested in you, and they don’t care how long you prepared, how challenging your job is, or how smart you are.  Some presentation courses tell presenters to start with a humorous story, a human-interest story or some such nonsense.  Save those for a presentation to the local chamber of commerce or Rotary Club.
  2. Imagine yourself as a member of the audience.  Present only information audience members need to know.  You will not impress them by telling them everything you know about a subject.  They don’t want to know what you know.  They want to know what they need to know or do.  Anything more will cause them to look at their watches, read their e-mails and generally lose interest.
  3. Be prepared to talk without your PowerPoint presentation.  Remember, if you have thoroughly prepared, no one knows the subject better than you do.  The best presentations I’ve seen are those in which the presenters put the charts aside and simply explained why they were presenting, what they would ask the audience to do when they are finished, and why they should do what they are being asked to do.

    When I attended meetings in which presenters intended to cover a large number of charts, after about five minutes, I would ask them to move to the two or three charts in their presentation that best made the points they believed the audience needed to know.  I would then tell them to stick to those charts and ignore the rest.  This technique almost always led to better presentations in much less time than originally allocated.

  4. Finally, conclude every presentation with an opportunity for members of the audience to ask any questions they haven’t already asked, and, if appropriate, be sure to provide the audience with a clear summary of action items.

Managers who follow these four simple rules for delivering business presentations will significantly improve their managing skills and lead their organizations to better results.

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A How To Guide For Business Meetings

by Denny Strigl

When I ask business school students what they think managers actually do in the course of a workday, the first thing they always say is “attend meetings.”  It’s true.  Most managers spend a huge chunk of their time attending meetings.  And it’s also true that many managers find attending the majority of meetings to be a waste of their time. Meetings typically take too much time and accomplish too little.

In my book, Managers, Can You Hear Me Now?, I discuss several ideas to help managers conduct their meetings and deliver their presentations clearly, concisely and effectively.

Let’s start with a few basics.

First, meetings should have a beginning, a middle and an end. “Of course,” you say.
Unfortunately, many meetings seem to drone on forever or end without a conclusion  –which likely results in no one really knowing why they met in the first place or what they are supposed to do next.

Second, meetings should start at the beginning and conclude at the end. Many managers, however, actually start their meetings in the middle. When people attend a meeting the first thing they should be told is why they are there, or the purpose of the meeting. They should be told what they will be expected to know, or more important, do as a result of attending the meeting. When people know these points right at the start, they will find it much easier to focus and to begin thinking about how they will perform the task set forth. The questions they ask will also be more pertinent. At the end, managers should summarize the important points covered and reiterate what attendees are expected to do as a result of attending the meeting. Finally, when presenting to a small group, the best managers I know ask each attendee to summarize what he or she will do and when he or she will do it.

Third, meetings should start and end on time. Period! No excuses! The meeting should have a preannounced — and strictly adhered to — starting and ending time. Not only is it the courteous thing to do, but it also keeps attendees focused and forces presenters to use time efficiently.

Lastly, meetings should never be held simply for the purpose of meeting.  And, if there is no purpose for the meeting, it should be canceled.  Some of the worst managers I’ve known have held meetings for the purpose of scheduling the time and place for the next meeting!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on meetings.  What are some of the best and worst meetings you’ve ever attended?

Next week I’ll review four rules for good business presentations.

Follow me on Twitter @dfstrigl

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Managers, Balance Your Lives

by Denny Strigl

In Chapter 3 of Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? I presented my thoughts on the number of hours managers work in any given day.  Many managers I’ve worked with have gotten hung up on the long hours they put into their jobs, believing longer is better. They feel an odd sense of accomplishment if they are the last car out of the parking lot.  However, the number of hours a manager works is not the main issue.  Rather, I’ve always believed what is important is the work managers get done throughout the day.  If managers operate with an “I’m here, I’ve got time, I’m in no rush” attitude, they are making a mistake.  When managing others, to use an old phase, “Time is of the essence.”  Wasting any amount of time distracts from achieving results.

Whenever managers bragged about the hours they worked, I suggested that if they were better at managing their time, they might be able to complete their work between 8 AM and 5 PM.

What about working at home during the evening and over the weekends?  As I say in my book, yes, there will be times when it is necessary to put in a few extra hours–but only for extraordinary projects or deadlines, which are the exception, not the rule.  Of course, there will be times when something has to be done at home to prepare for the next day, but I think too many managers arrive home, have dinner and then retire into their dens or studies every night and pound away at the keyboard, sending e-mails, or glued to their to their electronic devices even if they are spending time with their families and friends.  You may find this surprising coming from the former CEO of Verizon Wireless, but I have found some of the biggest distractions in life are emailing and texting.  I have known too many people who have destroyed relationships because they were addicted to their electronic devices.

So here’s the bottom line: When you are at work, focus on work; minimize distractions and be as productive as you can be. When you are not at work, focus on your family, friends and leisure activities; recharge your batteries and come to work the next day re-energized.

Until the last several years of my working career my life revolved around my work.  What I have come to know is the importance of balancing your work life with your personal life.  I strongly believe it is important for managers to take time to enjoy their family and friends, and to nurture their personal relationships.  If managers don’t focus on bringing balance into their lives, they will suffer either personally or professionally, and often both.

Once again, my advice to managers is this: when you are at work, be at work and try to use every minute of your day productively.  When you are not at work, truly be away from work and allow yourself time to be with your family and friends.

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Managers, Don’t Throw Your People Under the Bus

by Denny Strigl

In Chapter 7 of Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? I said good managers know their people: they understand their strengths and weaknesses and know the parameters of the jobs their employees were hired to do.  The most successful managers I’ve met have placed people in jobs that match their current skill set and then give them a fair chance to succeed.  These same managers were always ready and able to assist their employees whenever the need arose.  They were able to do the jobs of the people they lead, training them and even filling in for them if it became necessary.

But what happens when a manager encounters an employee who has been given a fair chance to succeed and is still unable to do so?  Unfortunately, all too often, when employees are not performing in their jobs, managers immediately move to terminate them rather than present a different opportunity or train them for something more suited to their skill set.

Here are my thoughts for managers who think it may be time to terminate an employee:

1)      Carefully assess the situation to determine why the individual is not performing.  If the person is trying hard and demonstrates a desire to succeed, do all you can to make sure he or she has been given a fair chance to succeed.  Train and retrain the individual.  Demonstrate exactly what it takes to be successful.  Set achievable goals, measure performance and give plenty of feedback.  (Several techniques such as coaching, improvement plans, performance agreements and appraisals are discussed in Chapter 6 of my book.)

2)      When you have done all you can for an employee who tries hard and really wants to succeed, but is still unable to perform satisfactorily, before terminating the individual’s employment, explore other job opportunities within your company which may better suit the individual’s skill set.  Because someone is unable to perform satisfactorily in one job does not mean they are unable to perform in another.  I have found people who were unable to do one job, but were able to excel in another.  They weren’t “bad” employees; they were simply placed in the wrong jobs.  In my book I refer to this as the “round-peg-in-a-square-hole-syndrome.”

I would like to clarify a couple things.  First, managers should never move a problem employee to a new job, working for new manager, simply to “get rid” of a problem.   It must be understood by both the old and new managers that the employee’s skills are truly a better match in the new job position.  Which leads me to my second clarification. From time to time, unfortunately, there are poor performing employees who are unable to improve, don’t want to improve or demonstrate other chronic performance issues.  In such instances it is the manager’s job to know when to “let them off the bus.”  One of the most difficult things for a manager to do is to fire someone, but there are times when it is exactly what needs to be done for the good of the entire organization.

In conclusion, I have found firing decisions are often made prematurely.  My advice is to take the time necessary and provide the coaching required to help an individual to improve.  It is important not to give up on anyone too soon – not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because you’ve already made a big investment in the person.

Managers, you also need to recognize when you have done all you can do.  If you reach that point and the employee is still failing, the best action for the individual and for the entire organization is to separate right away.

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How to Interview For A Job

by Denny Strigl

The thing I enjoy most about being an author of a business book is the opportunity it has given me to speak with college students about leadership, management and my experiences in the business world. Last week I was very fortunate to spend a day with students at the University of South Carolina, lecturing and conducting Q&A sessions.  During the course of the day, the most frequently asked question (with variations) was “How can I get a job?”  Since the process of getting a job usually starts with an interview, I thought I would share my thoughts on how to interview successfully and hopefully increase your chances of getting the job you want.

A constant theme in my book, Managers Can You Hear Me Now? is the importance of focusing on the fundamentals.  Here are my fundamentals on how to interview for a job in the business world:

1)     Prepare ahead of time.  Do some research on the company. This should be obvious, but all too often job candidates under prepare. There is a lot to be learned from a simple search of the company’s website.  If the company is listed on one of the stock exchanges, you will be able to learn how the company is performing from a financial point of view.  Check their press releases for their last quarterly earnings report.  Look for new product releases or any other news about the company – good or bad.   Check for news articles about the company.  In less than an hour you can learn a lot about a company, which will enable you to answer questions you will undoubtedly be asked.  For example, one of my favorite opening statements for a job candidate was “Tell me a little about what you know about us.”

2)     Don’t be late for the interview.  Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early.  One of the worst things you can do is arrive late for a job interview.  I can’t recall ever hiring anyone who wasn’t on time for a job interview.  There is no good excuse for being late.

3)     Show each and every person who interviews you that you want the job.  I have interviewed many people who didn’t appear to really want the job for which they were interviewing.  If it appears that you came to the interview to see if the job might be of interest to you, or you come across to your interviewer as though you’re not really sure you want the job, I can almost guarantee you will not be offered the job.

4)     Dress like you want the job.  For men, this means wear a suit and a tie.  For women, this means wear a business suit.  Shine your shoes!  To get the job you have to look like you really want it.  By the way, in many companies these days “business casual” is acceptable dress.  When you are hired, you can dress like other employees of the company dress.  Until you are hired look extra sharp!

5)     Listen carefully to the questions you are asked.  Answer the question!  Don’t wander off by talking about things that don’t address the question your interviewer asked.  Also, never try to bluff your interviewer; always tell the truth.

6)     Be inquisitive.  Ask questions.  When your interviewer asks if you have any questions, be ready to ask a “good” question.  Your research about the company will prove useful here.  Don’t hesitate to ask for more detail about specific job duties.  Ask about something you read about the company like a new product or something you saw in a press clipping.  Show interest!    By the way, I think it’s a mistake not to ask questions because it might be perceived that you are not very interested.

7)     At the end of the interview look your interviewer in the eye, give him or her a firm handshake and let him or her know you are very interested in the job.  All too often candidates fail because they don’t ask for the job.  Ask for it!

The best candidates I’ve seen are those who are prepared, ask questions, appear confident and ask for the job.

Your goal, of course, in a job interview should always be to receive a job offer.  Do your very best to outshine other candidates and, by all means, don’t give your interviewer a reason to eliminate you.  Put yourself in the best light to receive a job offer.  Make the decision to accept or reject the job your choice!

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Labor Unions Are Obsolete

by Denny Strigl

There was a time when labor unions served an important purpose in the United States. Undoubtedly, we can all recall learning about the important contributions unions made to improve the dreadful working conditions and paltry wages of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Unions, too, fought to bring an end to sweatshops and pushed hard for government regulation of child labor, unhealthy working conditions, workplace safety and numerous other labor laws. Continue reading

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“Acting” Titles Don’t Fly With Me

by Denny Strigl

I met with an old friend this week.  In the course of the conversation we got around to his job.  He told me things were going very well for him at work and he “thinks” he has been promoted.  Naturally I asked, “Why do you think you have been promoted? It seems to me either you were or you weren’t.”  He went on to say his vice president named him to the position of acting director  of customer service.  I said, “Congratulations, but if you don’t mind my asking, what’s the difference between an acting director and a real director?”  As expected my friend told me he really wasn’t sure, but thought maybe his boss wasn’t certain that he would do a good job and might have to be removed, or perhaps his boss was considering someone else for the “real” job. Continue reading

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The Carnival Cruise Disaster

by Denny Strigl

A captain is responsible for everything that happens on his ship.  He has ultimate accountability and responsibility for everything that happens and for everyone on the ship – that’s Leadership 101.  Just like the captain and his ship, a CEO is accountable and responsible for everything and everyone in his company.   Continue reading

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Managers: Are Your Blindspots Holding You Back?

by Frank Swiatek

In my coaching experience, I have discovered that managerial blindspots is one of those factors which really hampers the growth of a manager…and often causes them to derail in their careers. Continue reading

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Ten New Year’s Resolutions to Improve Management and Leadership

by Denny Strigl

For most managers the beginning of a new year means establishing a new set of objectives.
Every year during the first week of January I communicated my company goals in writing and in meetings with groups of managers.   I asked my managers to provide me with a statement or “performance agreement” (preferably written on one page or less) of their objectives for the year.  During the second week in January I met with each of the managers who worked directly for me to discuss and agree upon their objectives for the year.  The objectives we agreed upon were always quantifiable and measurable.  (For more specific information on setting goals/objectives /targets please refer to Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? Chapter 3, “The First Obligation of a Manager: Get Results.”)
Continue reading

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So, You Got a New Responsibility Tacked on to Your Job…How Do You React?

by Frank Swiatek

Adding new responsibilities to present jobs is a common practice in organizations today as they strive on improving productivity.

I learned a valuable lesson early in my career on how to handle that situation in a professional way.

I was in a management training program for the M&T Bank when they had only 60 branches.  I was assigned to a $12 million branch office and reported to the Branch Manager, Brian Jakes.

The bank welcomed a new Executive Vice-President, Joe Brocato.  At a meeting of all the branch managers he made a stunning announcement.  He said, “We are going to turn this bank into a sales organization!”  He wanted the managers to make sales calls on businesses in their community as a way to drive revenue and get new customers (two of our Four Fundamentals in the book).  It was remarkable because at the time the branch managers were focusing their efforts on customer service and operations.  Banks, in general, were not viewed as sales organizations. Continue reading

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Thank You Ivan Seidenberg: A Corporate Leader Retires

by Denny Strigl

At the end of this month Ivan G. Seidenberg will retire from Verizon Communications after forty-five years in the business world.

I worked with him, and directly for him, for almost 20 years.  I’ve come to know him as more than a savvy business leader, but also as a devoted family man.  I have seen, up close, his unwavering commitment to Verizon…and I know him as a true patriot.

Ivan is a humble man with a remarkable story – a story he never tells.

He grew up in the Bronx, entered college right after high school, but left college before graduating.  In 1966, he took his first job with New York Telephone.  He started at the bottom as a cable splicer’s helper, climbing down into manholes and up onto telephone poles.  Shorty after beginning his career with New York Tel he was drafted into the army where he served two years.  He fought in Vietnam, was wounded at Khe Sahn and returned home in 1968.  He resumed his work at the telephone company and while working days attended night school for 14 straight years to earn his degree.  He has a bachelors degree in mathematics and a masters in business administration.

After graduating from college, Ivan’s career progressed quickly—one management job after another, ever increasing roles including operations, marketing, engineering and government relations.  He moved from New York Tel, to AT&T to NYNEX to Bell Atlantic where he was appointed chairman and chief executive officer in 1995.  In June of 2000 he became co-chief executive officer of Verizon Communications when it was formed as the result of the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE.  In 2002 he became Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Verizon.  He started at the very bottom and rose to the very top!

Here are some of the many things I have come to respect about Ivan’s management style and skills:

  1. He never gives up.  The word lose can’t be found in his vocabulary.
  2. He has always been willing to out think, out maneuver, and even out-wait every competitor we took on. He truly has the “patience of a saint.”
  3. In mergers and acquisitions he was always the acquirer.   He once told me “losers get acquired.”
  4. He is an excellent strategist – I’ve never seen anyone like him.  It’s why Verizon is the strong company it is today.
  5. Finally, in Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? I discussed how to use the “Shadow of The Leader” to build accountabilityIvan has always been a master of casting a positive leadership shadow, building accountability in the people he worked with and giving them the tools and support they needed to produce results.

Under Ivan’s leadership Verizon Communications has grown to well over a $100 billion company.  He has always been committed his customers, his shareholders…and always to his employees.

He once told me he had an obligation to build Verizon into a company which will survive and thrive long after he retired.  He has done just that

It has been my pleasure and an honor to work with Ivan Seidenberg.

Related Articles:

Verizon CEO McAdam Named Board Chairman; Seidenberg Retires

McAdam to Become Verizon Board Chairman in January

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Performance Appraisals: How to Use Year-End Appraisals to Achieve Outstanding Results

by Denny Strigl

I will never forget the first appraisal I received as a manager.

My first year’s experience managing a small group of people was pretty typical to many managers’ first year.  I was apprehensive: worried about what the people who worked for me thought of me as a boss and concerned about whether my performance was meeting my boss’ expectations.  Throughout the year I never got much feedback from my boss.  He was a man of very few words. From time to time he would tell me something he wanted me to do, but never told me whether he was satisfied with what I did, or how I did it. Continue reading

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Expecting the Most Out of People and Getting It….Most of the Time

by Denny Strigl

A key to managing people is clearly articulating what it is you expect them to do.  In Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? much is said about the importance of a manager’s  accountability and how a manager builds accountability in others, but what does a manager do when someone who works for him or her just isn’t getting the job done? Continue reading

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Small Business Owners: Do You Have a Marketing Problem or a Management Problem?

by Frank Swiatek

Having spoken to several groups of small business owners recently, marketing seems to be top of mind with them.

Getting more prospects, increasing conversion rates of prospects to customers, and increasing customer worth are all important subjects of discussion at the small business forums that I have spoken at.  But I had an experience recently which indicated that the owner did not have a marketing problem but, in fact, had a management problem.  The group was 15 owners of small businesses ranging in size from $3M in sales to $45M in sales. Continue reading

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The Importance of Staying Nimble

by Denny Strigl

Bureaucracy can kill a business.  Case in point:  Look what has happened to the U.S. Postal Service.  They are so big, cost laden and bureaucratic that they can’t get out of their own way.  When competition came in the form of email, they couldn’t cut costs quickly enough to keep up with their diminishing revenue stream.    Further, they didn’t change their monopolistic thinking when business started to disappear.  Instead of thinking of creative ways to adapt to their changing world, their answer was to cut back staff and increase prices. They couldn’t figure out what to do – had no vision and didn’t know how to innovate. Service deteriorated even further.  I don’t know about you, but one of my least favorite things to do is to visit my local post office.  Lines are long and slow moving.  It is understaffed and the employees appear hassled and consequently often treat customers rudely.

Here’s the good news.  The post office’s inefficiency has created opportunities for entrepreneurs.  Entrepreneurs and the small businesses many of them create are the backbone of job creation.

Here is an example:

Popcorn Packers Postal and Shipping Center in Pennington, New Jersey was founded in 1995 to provide its local customers with a convenient way to ship packages.  The business is individually owned and operated.  Cecelia, the business owner, can be found on any give day in the store greeting customers and working hard to ensure they have a positive experience.  Tom, the manager, is exactly the opposite of what I have generally found in the local post office . He is courteous, efficient and a no nonsense kind of guy.  If you need assistance packaging something, he is there to do it for you.  He is also quick to tell you shipping options, delivery schedules and associated pricing alternatives.

Popcorn Packers saw opportunity where the local post office was failing and filled the void.  They offer a complete package of postal and shipping services.  Not only do they offer the usual services provided by the U.S. Post Office including certified, registered and Express mail, but they also offer FedEx, UPS and DHL shipping.  And when your package is on it’s way they send you emails informing you of the status including when your package was successfully delivered.  In addition, unlike the post office, they provide many other services like copying, faxing, custom printing and even computer repair.  They also offer a wide variety of office supplies.  Customers are willing to pay a little bit more to get much more in service, courtesy and efficiency.

When I visited Popcorn Packers a couple days ago, Tom shared some very good news. They are opening a second location in Lambertville, NJ and possibly a third location soon.

Bottom line:  Big organizations, whether public or private, can lose their way if they are unable to respond to changing market conditions, unable to innovate and unable to meet the needs of their customers.  As discussed in my book, Managers Can You Hear Me Now?,  businesses large and small need to stay nimble and  do everything they possibly can to avoid bureaucracy lest they, too, end up like the U.S. Post Office.

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The Importance of Keeing Your Cool on the Job: A Manager’s Story

by Denny Strigl

This week an experienced manager told me he was critical of one of his employees and said he was “regretting the way it went down.”  I said I would be happy to listen if he would like  to tell me about it.  For the next thirty minutes or so, we talked about what happened.

A week earlier the manager had asked his shop foreman to prepare a report on machine utilization and energy costs.  The manager wanted the report for an important meeting with his boss, the manufacturing VP.  While preparing a few minutes before the meeting with the vice president, the manager realized he had not received the report he had asked the foreman to prepare.  He marched out onto the shop floor and angrily confronted the foreman.  Unfortunately, the confrontation occurred in front of eight of the foreman’s direct reports. To make matters worse he shouted that the foreman was incompetent and stalked back to his office.

I told the manager what he undoubtedly already knew.  As outlined in Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? I said the best managers I have worked with over the years lose their cool from time to time, but they never lose their respect for the people who work for them.  They didn’t yell, scream or pound their fists on their desks,  and they didn’t call their employees names or talk behind their backs.   Rather, they dealt with the situation at hand in a calm, unemotional manner.  They tried to be polite, but firm, and worked to find a fix to the situation they were dealing with rather than to place blame.  Further, they sought assurances that the situation would not happen again.  I have always found that the most successful managers have been demanding, but they’ve also always been respectful.

The manager told me he knows he “blew it” and asked what I would suggest he do now, if anything.  I probed a bit further to find the foreman actually had prepared the report in plenty of time for the meeting with the manufacturing vice president.  The report had been emailed and was unopened in the manager’s email inbox.  I told him I thought he  should consider “publicly” apologizing to the foreman and suggested he arrange a brief meeting on the shop floor with the foreman and the foreman’s eight direct reports.  I further suggested he should simply say he was wrong, apologize to the foreman, and to everyone for losing his cool, tell everyone the foreman has his full support (if , in fact, he does), and thank everyone for their hard work.  I also encouraged him to spend time on the shop floor talking to the foreman and other workers, giving them encouragement and being supportive whenever possible.

I couldn’t help but offer him a final thought:  The entire situation could have been avoided if only he had the facts before he confronted the foreman.  Also, it would have been much less damaging had he spoken to the foreman privately and given him an opportunity to respond – showing him the respect all employees should have for one another.

Related Posts:

From Behind the Desk is a Dangerous Way to View Your Organization

The Key to Being An Approachable Manager

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Why Cut the Corporate Tax Rate?

by Denny Strigl

We are hearing a lot lately about corporate taxes. When discussing the need to reduce our federal deficit, there are those who say raise taxes because it’s the fair thing to do and corporations make too much money, and there are others who say cut taxes because it will stimulate investment and help create jobs.  There is so much “noise” carried by TV, radio and newspapers supporting both sides of the issue that I thought I would try to explain why I’m for cutting corporate taxes.

In keeping with chapter 4, “Keeping Things Simple”, in Managers Can You Hear Me Now? I will attempt to explain my position simply and clearly.

Simply stated:  cutting the corporate tax rate will make America a more competitive place to do business.

A few facts.  The current federal tax rate for U.S. corporations is 35%.  This is highest tax rate among developed countries in the world.  The average tax rate of our major international trading partners is in the high 20% range.  This, in part, causes costs, and therefore prices, of many American companies to be higher than those of many overseas companies resulting in fewer products produced in the U.S. for shipment abroad.  It also results in more imports to the U.S. from our overseas trading partners which, of course, means fewer products produced in the U.S. for consumption in this country.  The higher U.S. tax rate is also a reason why more U.S. companies are moving their operations to countries like China, India, Mexico and Ireland.  Bottom line:  fewer jobs are required here in the United States.

Let’s go a step further.  Fewer jobs here in the U.S. ripples through the economy.  There is less money to spend which results in fewer employment opportunities in retail sales, construction, manufacturing and especially in small businesses.  When the economy is humming, it is in mid-sized and small businesses where the majority of job growth occurs.  Bottom line:  the economy is in the doldrums and we are experiencing almost no job growth.

All of this is to say that if corporate tax rates were reduced to levels competitive with the tax  rates of other developed countries we would experience a positive ripple effect.  It would encourage U.S. businesses to invest more in plant, materials and infrastructure.  It would help narrow our trade deficit.  It would result in less need for companies to shift operations overseas.  All of which would result in more U.S. job opportunities.

A word of caution:  A reduction in the corporate tax rate alone will not produce the kind of job growth required to get our unemployment rate down significantly from the 9% level.  What it will take to get unemployment down to pre-recession levels is a combination of lower taxes and less regulation.  Businesses are also not hiring because of time consuming and costly regulations imposed by our federal and state governments.  In addition to a cut in the corporate tax rate, what is needed is fewer regulations imposed upon U.S. businesses…and certainly no new regulations at this time.  Fix both and we will see jobs “created” and people getting back to work.

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The Apple Way: The Legacy of Steve Jobs’ Culture-Driven Organization

by Denny Strigl

Steve Jobs was not only a brilliant technologist; he was also a brilliant manager.  On October 6, 2011 Geoffrey A. Fowler and Jessica E. Vascellaro in their Wall Street Journal article titled With Jobs Gone, a New Test for Apple ‘Army‘ they wrote, “The corporate culture that Mr. Jobs worked to instill, and now leaves behind, encourages creativity within a formal structure of product development and launches, according to a former employee.”  They write of the importance he placed on grooming Apple’s senior leadership team to carry on Apple’s remarkable culture. They further report that senior leaders “were told they were the cultural keepers of Apple, and were responsible for propagating that culture to other employees.”

I didn’t know Steve Jobs well enough to tell you exactly how he thought about corporate culture, but I can tell you whenever I visited him in Cupertino, Apple’s product innovation and results-driven culture was obvious to me.  I know he created, lived and drove Apple’s culture. When he and his managers talked about their products, I could see and feel their excitement.   I knew it was extremely important to them to build excellent products which would not only excite Apple’s customers, but would improve their customers’ lives in significant ways.  It was also obviously important to them to be the best and to win in the marketplace.

It’s my guess that Steve Jobs and his senior managers didn’t spend a lot of time putting signs and slogans up around the organization, proclaiming how they wanted things done.  Rather, I believe, starting with Steve Jobs, and now Tim Cook, every senior manager “lives” Apple’s culture.   I’ll bet culture is demonstrated every day by Apple’s managers.

As I wrote in Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? simply stating what your culture is doesn’t mean people are going to follow it.  Rather an organization’s culture is determined by how you, as a manger, behave.  Culture can’t start from the bottom of a company, and it certainly can’t be sustained that way.  Culture reflects the “shadow of the leader.”  Apple’s strong corporate culture starts with its top leader, and the same is true for all companies that demonstrate sustained success.  Culture is the values you not only talk about, but actually live.

With the death of Steve Jobs much has been reported this week about Apple.  A question asked over and over again is whether Apple can sustain its remarkable success without Job’s genius.  Of course, only time will tell, but I believe the culture he built, nurtured and embedded in his management will drive continued success, but only if Apple’s leaders are indeed its “cultural keepers.”  (A culture will atrophy if it isn’t demonstrated every day.)

For more on what corporate culture is, isn’t and how managers can build a winning culture within their organizations, please see chapter 9 of Managers Can You Hear Me Now?

Related Article:

Steven Paul Jobs, 1955-2011: Apple Co-Founder Transformed Technology, Media, Retailing And Built One of the World’s Most Valuable Companies

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Eight Tips to Survive and Thrive in Companies Large and Small

By Denny Strigl

As I mentioned in last week’s post on creating jobs, with the unemployment rate here in the U.S. at 9.1% and real unemployment closer to 20% we hear news about jobs almost everyday.  This morning I picked up the Wall Street Journal and read about 3500 jobs cuts at Nokia.  Nokia joins a long list of major companies downsizing payrolls including HSBC, Bank of America, Merck, Cisco, RIM, Lockheed Martin, Borders and many more.

Following last week’s post several readers asked if I have any tips on how to keep your job when your employer announces plans to cut jobs.  The answer, unfortunately, is that by the time a layoff actually becomes public knowledge there are very few things individuals who may be impacted can do to  save their jobs at that point.  Generally speaking, however, there is usually a little time left between the time an announcement was made and the time people are actually let go. Although they may have very little impact on the outcome, there are a couple of “last ditch”  things employees can do.

  1. Express a desire to stay.  Here, I mean if you really want to stay, tell everyone you can that you want to remain with the company.  Tell them why you want to stay, and let them know why they should choose to keep you.  This is not a time to be shy!
  2. Continue to do your job in the very best way you know how right up until the end.  Frankly, I have often seen managers change their minds about who stays and who goes in a layoff situation.

The best advice I have to give on how to keep your job when your company lays off employees are the things you should do long before a layoff is announced.  What are these things?

Here are eight tips to survive and thrive in companies big and small:

  1. Work very hard, be accountable, do what you say you are going to do, when you say you are going to do it.
  2. Never lie about anything.
  3. Seek more responsibility and  do more than what your manager asks you to do.
  4. Learn everything you possibly can.
  5. Try to make your boss even better than he or she wants to be.
  6. If you have nothing nice to say about another person, say nothing.
  7. Avoid “corporate politics”, backstabbing and placing blame on anyone or anything.
  8. Be loyal.

Employees who consistently do these eight things significantly enhance their chances of surviving a corporate “downsizing.”  In fact, I would suggest that employees who do these things make themselves indispensable.

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The Key to Being An Approachable Manager

by Denny Strigl

Frank Swiatek and I participated in an ExecuNet chat session this week.  After speaking several minutes about the lessons presented in Managers, Can You Hear Me Now?, we answered a number of questions from ExecuNet members who had joined the call.  I would like to share one of the questions and our answer with you.

If managers want people to know they are approachable, how do they do it?  The question arises from a discussion on the ExecuNet call (and in the book) in which Frank and I talked about the importance of letting the people who work for you know you expect them to tell you about issues and problems they may be experiencing.  Unlike managers who put their heads in the sand, good managers let the people they work with know they don’t want to hear only good news; they want to hear the bad news too.

The answer to the question lies in a manager’s ability to consistently demonstrate that he or she is “open” to hearing from any employee about any issue. The best managers I have known operate in an open work environment.  In an open work environment employees can speak their minds without fear of reprisal.  In fact in a truly open work environment employees are encouraged to speak their minds.

  1. One of the techniques I have used to create an open work environment is what I call the obligation of constructive dissent.  I have told my employees if they disagree with something, it is their obligation to say so.  This technique is discussed at length in the book so I won’t discuss the details here except to say that constructive dissent doesn’t mean an employee who exercises their obligation of constructive dissent is free to obstruct a decision, or not fulfill a work requirement, simply because he or she expressed disagreement.  On the contrary, the employee also has the obligation, after all dissent is heard, to accept a final decision, rally behind it and support it to its conclusion.
  2. Another helpful technique to demonstrate a manager is approachable is the “open door policy.”  Managers who have an “open door” tell their employees the door to their office is always open and encourage employees to drop by to discuss any issues or problems they may be experiencing.  A couple words of caution are necessary when implementing an open door policy.  First, when managers say they have an open door, they really have to mean it.  It is very important that they really do keep their doors open, and they really are willing spend a few minutes with employees who stop by to discuss a problem.  If managers say they have an open door, but really don’t or if they are selective in whom they are willing to talk to, word travels quickly throughout the organization that the open door policy is a sham.   Second, because managers have an open door policy doesn’t mean it is necessary for them to accept responsibility for fixing every problem they hear, or fix every gripe that comes their way.  Often, I used the open door policy to give advice such as suggesting who in the organization an employee should talk to or work with to get an issue resolved.

The key to demonstrating you are an approachable manager is to being with your people, working through issues, training them, answering their questions, as much as you possibly can be.  And of course, honest and open communication is essential to building trust.  When your employees trust you, they will feel comfortable approaching you.

Related Posts:

From Behind the Desk is a Dangerous Way to View Your Organization

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A Few Thoughts About Strategic Planning

by Denny Strigl

Was the importance of long-term strategy taught in one of your college business courses?  In grad school I took an entire course in business strategy and planning.   We spent a complete semester talking about the importance of 3 and 5 year strategic plans.  We read case studies about the strategic planning process in a number of large companies and discussed how critical such planning is to corporate success.  I remember wondering whether the systematic, organized type of strategic planning we were studying really worked in the “real world.”   It all sounded to “academic” to me.

I found the kind of planning taught in my college course was far from reality.  The real business world is filled with far too many uncertainties.  The kind of uncertainties we didn’t completely understand in the classroom.  The reality is that competition, innovation, regulation, taxation and numerous other influences outside your control may require plans to be changed.  Good managers understand the need to be flexible.  They know their plans may need to be changed very quickly. The best managers I’ve worked with were able to anticipate change and, if necessary, shift tactics almost immediately.

In my opinion developing 5 year strategic plans are a waste of time.  I believe the same about 3 year plans.  So, in a highly competitive business what is a realistic strategic planning timeframe?  Some would suggest it’s difficult to plan more than a month or a quarter in advance.  I understand that point of view, but, frankly, find it unacceptable.

I think it is essential to have at least a solid one year plan. Ideally, a two year plan is better.  It should be understood that any plan is subject to change when circumstances change.  I’m sensitive to managers on the front line who ask how it’s possible for them to plan as far as two years out when they are “fighting fires” daily and shifting tactics constantly.  True, it’s difficult to plan ahead when you are fighting to “stay alive”, but if you don’t have goals like revenue growth, customer growth and profit growth, you will have little chance of success….unless you are extremely lucky.  And we all know luck eventually runs out.

Bottom line:  My advice on the subject of strategic planning is to do it.  Keep it real.  Set high standards and achievable goals. Be prepared to make changes quickly.   Keep the timeframes in your plans reasonable.

Stay focused on the Four Fundamentals discussed in detail in Managers, Can You Hear Me Now?

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Managing Distractions: Tips for Staying Out of Email Jail

by Denny Strigl

In chapter 8 of Managers, Can You Hear Me Now?  We suggest a few guidelines for using email.  As mentioned in the book the guidelines were developed and sent to Verizon Wireless employees a few years ago by Jim Gerace who was then our vice president of corporate communications.  I won’t repeat here what is written in the book, but I would like to suggest an additional tip for handling your email.

Do you ever find yourself opening an email, reading it and saving it only to come back to later when you have more time to deal with it?  Do you sometimes find yourself moving to the next email and doing the same thing with it as you did with the previous email?  I’ve found it’s not uncommon for managers to jump around from one email to another to another without handling them to conclusion.  You may even open the same email several times only to save it for another time.  Before you know it you have a “pile” unfinished emails.  You have entered email jail!

Here is a possible solution; one that worked for me.   Remember the FIFO inventory method you learned in your accounting courses?  FIFO stands for first in, first out.  I try to handle my email the same way.  I dispose of emails in the same order I receive them.  It’s hard to get use to doing at first, but once you do, you will find you can save a tremendous amount of time.

In adopting the FIFO method of handling email you may find it helpful to reread the guidelines presented in chapter 8.  Especially important is the guideline which says, “Don’t spend more than five minutes dealing with an email.  When you go over this limit, stop and make a phone call.”

It may sound like I’m over simplifying.  Yes, I may be, but just like the goal of saying things on one half of one side of one sheet of paper, handling every email in the order you received it and getting “rid” of it in five minutes or less should always be the goal.

Here are a couple other email tricks managers may find helpful:  When you receive a lengthy email, return it to the sender and ask what he or she would like you to do or simply ask them to “net it out” for you.  Another technique I used when I was listed, along with others, in the “cc” box on an email was to reply, “What would you like me to do with this?” or “Why do I need this.” Or, an even better alternative might be to press the delete key.  If you missed something “critical,” the sender will undoubtedly let you know soon enough.

Email can be an efficient tool, but only if used in the right way.  All too often we receive emails we don’t need to receive, and send emails we don’t really need to send.  The best way to use email is as a direct link to driving your results.

Related Posts

Managing Distractions: Worrying About What Others Think

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The Most Important Business Lesson Never Taught in College

by Denny Strigl

Last week a young man asked me for advice on what courses he should study in college to help him have a successful business career.  The individual had just successfully completed his freshman at a major university.

I told him I wasn’t aware of any “magical” college courses which will determine success as a manager, but there are some which will be more helpful than others.  I told him simply, the courses that teach how to think and write will be most helpful in a business career. He then asked, “What courses would those be?”  I told him I didn’t have a recommended list of courses to give him, but the courses I benefited most from were the ones in which I had to think things through logically and draw my own conclusion—I mean really think. I remember them as “hard” courses taught by “tough” teachers.  They weren’t necessarily accounting or marketing or management courses, rather they were some of the more basic courses like English composition, logic, and even math.

I talked about this very subject in Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? In fact, one of the most important lessons I learned in business was never taught to me in college, but I’m sure it should have been because it has proven invaluable.

It took place early in my career and concerned something I learned from one of my bosses, Jack Clark.  Jack taught me the importance of “netting things out” as he put it.  He told me if I was unable to write things on one half of one side of one sheet of paper then I hadn’t given the subject nearly enough thought.  He further said if it takes much more space than that to write what I was trying to say not only had I not thought it though, but no sensible person would take the time to read it.  I think he was exactly right!

As a manager I found it very difficult to write the things I wanted to say on one half of one side of one sheet of paper.  However, when I was able to do it, it was clear and often perfectly understood by the people who read it.

Back to the young college student’s question:  Courses that encourage students to think logically and write their thoughts clearly provide an excellent foundation for a career in business.

Related Posts

Hard-Hitting Lesson #3: Put Your Message in Clear and Concise Terms

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Building Blocks for Success: A Commencement Speech

by Denny Strigl

Managers, Can You Hear Me Now, Denny Strigl, 0071759131

Canisius College Undergraduate Commencement Address
May 21, 20011: President Hurley, Trustees, Regents, Jesuits of Canisius College, faculty, staff, parents, family, friends and members of the graduating class of 2011. Congratulations on your graduation, and thank you for allowing me the honor of being part of it.

As I prepared to speak to you today I asked several friends for their suggestions about what I should say to inspire you. One of my engineering friends said to talk to you about the propagation aspects of cellular radio spectrum in the 850 megahertz band. I rejected his idea!

To get serious for a few minutes, I did think a lot about what I could possibly say today that might inspire you, that might give you something to think about as you begin the next phase of your lives. I clearly understand I’m competing with the excitement of the day and your thoughts about the parties you will be attending this afternoon and tonight.

So, with all that in mind, I would like to share my understanding of some important things I’ve come to understand over the 65 years of my life’s journey so far. These are things I thought I knew, but now I know I didn’t fully understand them years ago. There are just six simple things I would like to say and ask you to consider.

First, know that life is not always fair. You do know this. It’s a fact of life. But do you know it is how you respond to the adversity you encounter that will define the person you become? It’s true. We can choose to let the bad things that happen to us pull us down, and keep us down. Or we can view every challenge in life as an opportunity to learn from, rise above and move on; hopefully, a better person because of it. What I now know that I didn’t clearly understand years ago is that with the right mindset you can turn even the most difficult of circumstances into successes if you truly commit yourself to doing so.

Graduates, my wish for you is that you will have the ability to turn every challenge into an opportunity

The second thing I’ve learned over the years is something we all know, but I have come to know much more about just how important it really is. Here I speak of integrity. Integrity is the basis of trust. Trust, I have found is a building block for sustained success. When you are trusted, opportunities abound. It all begins with your integrity. So what is integrity? There are many who would define it simply as honesty. When I use the word integrity, I mean more than just honesty. Honesty is a critical, but not an exclusive, component of integrity. Frankly, I have known people without integrity who were, nonetheless, truthful–as in, “Yes, I took the money from the vault.” By integrity I mean an adherence to moral and ethical principles. My way of thinking about this is simple: an individual with integrity is someone who will do the right thing even when no one is watching. In our world of instant gratification and instant communication please believe me when I tell you that you will be tempted, or perhaps even told by someone, to do something you know isn’t the right thing to do.

Graduates, my wish for you is that you will always do the right thing even when no one is watching.

Third, I always thought I knew what I’m about to tell you, but here, too, I never knew just how important it really is. Please don’t ever stop learning. Commit to making yourself a little better every day. Conditions around you will perpetually change. I have found that unless you continually improve your mind and build your skills, your ability to succeed at whatever you pursue will diminish. Personally, I have always had a goal of learning at least one new thing every day. This attitude toward learning can make a big difference in personal growth.

I wish for you the ability to learn something new every day of your lives.

Next is something I learned the hard way. Until the last few years of my working career my life revolved around my work. What I have come to know is the importance of balancing your work life with your personal life. All too often, even now, I hear people brag about the number of hours they work or that they are the last one out of the parking lot at night. They are making a mistake. It is very important to take time to enjoy their family and friends, and to nurture their personal relationships. If we don’t focus on bringing balance into our lives, we will suffer either personally, or professionally, and often both. As an aside; you may find this surprising coming from the former CEO of Verizon Wireless, but I have found one of the biggest distractions in life is emailing and text messaging. Okay, I know you are thinking, “What the heck is this old guy saying.” So, I will add, this may make no sense to you now, but I’m almost certain it will several years from now. I have known too many people who have destroyed relationships because they were addicted to their electronic devises.

Graduates, I wish for you the ability to always balance your personal and work lives.

Fifth, you will “wear many hats” throughout the years ahead. You will do many good things. Hopefully, many great things. Please consider something I know to be very important. As you rise in your chosen professions try not to get caught up in your own self importance. If you can be humble, people will no less recognize your accomplishments…. and they will appreciate you even more.

I wish for you the ability to always be humble.

Finally, be in charge of your own life and your own career. Never wait to be given something–it may never come. In the work a day world, success comes to those who live by high standards, set lofty goals, stay focused and work hard to achieve their goals. I have found the same to be true in personal life.

Of course, I wish for you the ability to stay focused and achieve your goals.

Over the years I have often heard people talk about the colleges they attended and the quality of the education they received. I’m here to tell you something I’ve also come to know very clearly; there is no better education than one steeped in Jesuit ideals and values. You have received an education focused on care of the whole person– mind, body and spirit. It is the wonderful education you received here at Canisius that will be the foundation for great success and proud accomplishments.

So, the building blocks for success, in whatever you choose to do are:

  • Turn challenges into opportunities
  • Live with integrity
  • Never stop learning
  • Balance your life
  • Be humble
  • Take charge.

Lastly, my wish for you is that you will use your skills and talents to create a better world, and that you find and keep what you love.

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Results Are What Matter in Government Too

by Denny Strigl

At the end of last week we heard a lot about the unemployment rate.  Here are some of my thoughts on the subject:

The reason the unemployment rate ticked up again is directly related to two issues.  Continue reading

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Hard-Hitting Lesson #5: Tell It Like It Is

by Denny Strigl

Hard-Hitting Lesson #5 (part five of the five-part series): Good news, bad news, any news, good managers will tell it like it is.

Related Posts:

Hard-Hitting Lesson #4: Be Accountable

Hard-Hitting Lesson #3: Put Your Message in Clear and Concise Terms

Hard-Hitting Lesson #2: Manage Distractions

Hard-Hitting Lesson #1: Results Are What Matter

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Mind Over Matter: What Managers Can Learn from the NLRB Boeing Complaint

by Denny Strigl

Last week it was reported that the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint alleging that Boeing violated labor law by transferring work to a non union facility in South Carolina.

Here’s what I know:  In 2007 Boeing said they were going to build seven 787 Dreamliners per month in Washington State.  A couple of years later, the company announced it would build three more 787s per month in South Carolina.  The Boeing Washington workers are union members represented by the International Association of Machinist.  The Boeing workers in South Carolina are not union members.  The union alleges that the company’s decision to expand in South Carolina was made in retaliation for past union strikes.  The company has claimed that no such retaliation has occurred, and the decision to expand into South Carolina was purely a business decision.  As I understand it, the company even talked to the union in advance, asked for some assurances on various union work rules, etc. and when they didn’t get the assurances they were seeking, they made their decision to expand to South Carolina.  Further, as a result of Boeing’s decision to expand production of the 787s in South Carolina not one union member in Washington State lost their job, and in fact additional workers have been hired in Washington.  In other words, there has been no movement of any existing work out of Washington State.  So, based on this information, why are the unions suing and, if they were really concerned about their workers, why didn’t they respond to company officials initial request to change union work rules, etc. that might have gotten the extra three Dreamliners per month allocated to the Washington plant, giving their members more work and potentially more money.

It seems that nowadays, unions have forgotten what their true purpose is and are more concerned with increasing their membership rolls, thereby collecting more union dues and filling the pockets of union bosses.  In other words, they seem more interested in their own survival, particularly as fewer private sector workers join unions, than they are with bettering the working conditions of the very people they claim to represent.

Unions served a very important purpose when they first came into existence over 70 years ago, but much has changed since then.  Unions thrive when they are able to cast managers as “bad guys” or “the enemy”.  Managers can avoid letting that happen by staying close to their employees.

Unionized or not, managers should always listen carefully to your employees and manage with the “Mindset of Successful Managers” as discussed in chapter 7 of our book, Managers Can You Hear Me Now?I won’t repeat what is written in chapter 7 except to say being honest and open at all times is key to dealing with unionization.

Further Reading:

NLRB Boeing Complaint

NLRB will sue Ariz., SD over union laws

Labor Board Tells Boeing New Factory Breaks Law

NLRB continues its crusade to unionize America

South Carolina Lawmakers Livid About Boeing NLRB Complaint

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Hard-Hitting Lesson #4: Be Accountable

by Denny Strigl

Hard-Hitting Lesson #4 (part four of the five-part series): Good managers don’t blame anybody but themselves when results are not met.

Related posts:

Hard-Hitting Lesson #3: Put Your Message in Clear and Concise Terms

Hard-Hitting Lesson #2: Manage Distractions

Hard-Hitting Lesson #1: Results Are What Matter

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Good Managers Focus on the Four Fundamentals

by Denny Strigl

Since our book was introduced a few weeks ago, I have had an opportunity to meet and talk to many people in several cities across the country.  It has been a pleasure to speak about Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? and to discuss the details of some of the hard- hitting lessons presented in the book, but what I have most enjoyed is responding to the many great questions people have asked.  Questions have ranged from the very general in nature like how one goes about writing a book to specific questions about some of the management concepts discussed in the book.

One question in particular which has been asked on three occasions concerns what I call the “Four Fundamentals.”  In the book I say these fundamentals should be the focus of all managers.  They are:

  1. Grow revenue
  2. Get new customers
  3. Keep the customers you already have
  4. Eliminate costs

Further, I suggest if managers are not focused on one or more of these fundamentals they probably need to prioritize what they are doing.

The question which has been raised concerns why there aren’t other important fundamentals.  For example, one individual mentioned nothing happens until a sale is made, therefore shouldn’t sales be a fundamental?  Another asked why employee training and development isn’t a fundamental because nothing gets done until employees are trained.  Yet another asked why I didn’t include product development and innovation as a fundamental because they are critical to a company’s success.  An article even appeared in GPS World written by Kevin Dennehy on April 13, 2011 quoting someone who apparently heard me speak at the CTIA Convention in Orlando a few weeks ago who said, “Apparently unlike Mr. Strigl I think product innovation needs to be at the top of a manager’s to-do list.”

All are good questions.  Of course, selling is important and so are employee training and product innovation.   All are extremely important, as are other functions within a company.  However, looking at just these three questions, I would suggest each function mentioned falls under the general umbrella of what I refer to as the “Four Fundamentals.” Selling is all about growing revenue and getting new customers.  Employee training and development can be aimed at any one or more of the four fundamentals.  And certainly product innovation and development concerns growing revenue, getting new customers and even keeping the customers you already have.  Developing new products can even be a way of eliminating old costs.

Bottom line for me:  It’s up to individual managers to decide what functions they need to undertake to contribute to one or more of the fundamentals.  I’m encouraged by the nature of these questions and that many managers may be doing important things which contribute directly to the four fundamentals without needing to even think about it.  At the same time if they are doing things which do not contribute to the four fundamentals, they should think about not doing those things.

Related Posts:

2011 International CTIA: Wireless Today and Tomorrow

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Hard-Hitting Lesson #3: Put Your Message in Clear and Concise Terms

by Denny Strigl

In Hard-Hitting Lesson #3 (part three of the five-part series), I discuss one of the quintessential rules that helped me transform Verizon Wireless from a regional carrier into a billion-dollar company during my 20 years as CEO and president: If you cannot put your message in clear and concise terms, you cannot expect results to match your goals.

Related posts:

Hard-Hitting Lesson #2: Manage Distractions

Hard-Hitting Lesson #1: Results Are What Matter

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From Behind the Desk is a Dangerous Way to View Your Organization

by Denny Strigl

A common theme in Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? is the need for managers to get out of their offices to find out what is really happening within their organizations. When meeting with employees and observing them perform their assigned work, managers will see firsthand both obstacles and opportunities that exist.  The same is true when talking directly to customers.   Sitting in the office reading and writing emails, studying spread sheets, analyzing reports and tallying results may be necessary, but nothing can substitute for the knowledge managers gain when they spend time with the people who work for them.

What follows is an example of an outstanding manager who understood the importance of getting out of his office:

Several years ago   I visited the president of a retail company in Maryland that sold cellular phones.  The purpose of my visit was to see if I could find out why the company was so successful. The name of the company was Americom and the president was a gentleman by the name of Mike Gill.  Americom sold more phones, by far, for Bell Atlantic than any other company.

My time with Mike was fascinating.  We started early in the morning with a quick slide presentation of his company’s results.  Mike not only knew the results, but he also the details behind them; products, prices, promotions and much more.  Next we visited every department from sales to the warehouse to billing and customer service.  I was impressed that Mike not only knew every employee by name, but he could also discuss the details of their jobs.  He talked specific goals and results.  He asked about problems, solutions and opportunities.

At the end of the day I had a pretty good idea why Americom was so successful; they had a great leader.  Nonetheless, as we sat in Mike’s office recapping the day, I asked Mike what he thought was the key to his success.  Without hesitation he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a laminated card which he gave to me.  I have kept the card and read it often.  On the card was the author, John le Carre’s quote which said, “FROM BEHIND THE DESK IS A DANGEROUS PLACE FROM WHICH TO VIEW THE WORLD!!”  Mike had signed the card indicating that the last place from which he intended to manage was from behind his desk.

I have always believed that the worst place to be as a manager was behind my desk.  As discussed in chapter 2 of Managers? Can You Hear Me Now?, when managers get out of their offices and visit employees at all levels in their organizations , they can instantly demonstrate they are open to new ideas, want to learn about issues, are eager to find solutions to problems, and are engaged and interested in the people within their organizations.

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Hard-Hitting Lesson #2: Manage Distractions

by Denny Strigl

In Hard-Hitting Lesson #2 (part two of the five-part series), I discuss one of the quintessential rules that helped me transform Verizon Wireless from a regional carrier into a billion-dollar company during my 20 years as CEO and president: If you are going to be successful, it’s important to manage your day by limiting the distractions that can otherwise control it.

Related Posts:

Hard-Hitting Lesson #1: Results Are What Matter

Managing Distractions: Worrying About What Others Think

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Surviving a Merger: Turbulent Times Call for Composed Measures

by Denny Strigl

Much has been written in the press the last couple weeks about AT&T’s $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile.  Mergers and acquisitions are always exciting, particularly for the top executives of the companies involved and for people on Wall Street who worked to bring the deal together.  However, for many employees in both companies mergers and acquisitions can cause great consternation.  Employees immediately wonder what will happen to their jobs, and what will happen to them.

In the case of AT&T and T-Mobile there was immediate speculation that putting the two companies together could mean as much as $40 billion in cost reductions and the elimination of thousands of jobs.  Positive news for investors, but what about employees?

Most companies try to assure employees that there will be plenty of job opportunities, and that the most qualified people from both companies will be chosen to fill jobs in the new, combined company.  Nonetheless, job losses will occur.

During my 41-year business career I have “lived through” many mergers as a first line employee, a middle manager, and a CEO. Here is my best advice on how to “survive” a merger:

  1. Stay focused on doing your job. Try not to be distracted.  People who get distracted and stop doing their jobs are the first to go.
  2. Don’t choose sides. Keep your options open.  Be open to new ideas. Be willing to change the way you do your job.
  3. Don’t hesitate to let your bosses know you are excited about the opportunities the new, combined entity will create, and let them know you would like to be involved.

In Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? an entire chapter is devoted to managing distractions.  A merger/acquisition can be a major distraction, but like any other distraction the best managers I have worked with stay focused on the number one priority of all managers: delivering results.  Managers deliver results by giving undivided attention to the Four Fundamentalsgrowing revenue, getting new customers, keeping the customers they already have, and eliminating costs.

Related Articles:

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Hard-Hitting Lesson #1: Results are What Matter

by Denny Strigl

In Hard-Hitting Lesson #1 (part one of the five-part series), I discuss one of the quintessential rules that helped me transform Verizon Wireless from a regional carrier into a billion-dollar company during my 20 years as CEO and president: A manager’s focus is to get results through people.

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Be in Charge of Your Own Day

It’s important to take charge of your own day. Don’t let someone else be in control. We all have distractions coming at us from all different directions. There is a constant flow of e-mails, text messages, phone calls and phone messages that can interrupt our day. In fact, it can be a constant barrage.

It takes discipline to be in control of your own workday. Results-focused people have a daily discipline to avoid distractions that take them away from the important things they need to accomplish. It takes discipline to avoid a meeting that might otherwise be nice to attend but not really necessary for you to achieve your goals for the day. It also takes discipline to check your email only during certain times of the day and not be distracted or lose your focus with the endless text messages you may receive.

I like what Nido Qubein, the president of High Point University, said about discipline: “At the end of the day, you are left with one of two pains–the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Pick one!” He’s so right. Without the discipline necessary to accomplish your goals, you will fall short on your performance and will later regret it.

In Chapter 8 of Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? I discuss numerous distractions that can keep us from achieving our daily goals – everything from emails and text messaging to the Internet and even personal attacks. I won’t reiterate here the many distractions we may face and how to handle them, but I would like to say something about distractions in general. Any distraction usually places an immediate demand on you, gaining your attention, and sometimes there is an immediate emotional response to it. This will happen minute by minute if you let it. There is almost always an urgency placed on each distraction, whether it is important or not. Remember, not all urgent distractions are important in relationship to your goals; In fact, I would say most are not. Sometimes, when you check on each distraction, the moment it occurs, it simply becomes a poor time-consuming habit.

It takes discipline to stay focused on your daily goals and leave distractions for certain times of the day. Many “urgent” distractions have nothing to do with what is really important to you. So, if you are going to be successful, it is essential to manage your day by managing the distractions that can otherwise control it — and you.

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